2 Bigs + 4 Littles under 1 Midsize Roof = Life As We Know It
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Happy New Year!

OK, this is more than a little embarrassing. Almost a whole year has passed since I’ve found the time to post here! I won’t bore you with all of the reasons. Let’s just say, “We’ve been REALLY busy!” So busy, in fact, that this is our Christmas card — a week late and only produced in digital form. But — whew! — at least it’s here! The pics of the Littles were captured on Christmas Eve, just after we finished making our traditional holiday treat: gluten-free sugar-cookie stars stacked into Christmas trees and topped with icing and sprinkles. Now it’s New Year’s Eve, and we’re rested (a bit), refreshed (sorta) and ready (almost) to make a fresh start in 2013. Here are a few of our highlights from the old year and hopes for the new year:

Kellen, age 12
Highlights:
• baptized on Palm Sunday at Grace Community Church, Tempe
• achieved Classical Conversations Memory Master distinction (memorized and recited a humongous number of history, science, geography, math, Latin and English grammar facts, learned in 24 weeks)
• performed as The Turkey in a homeschool theater production of Honk! Jr., The Musical (signature line: “I survived Thanksgiving!”)
• swam with the Tempe Tigersharks (his fourth year on the swim team)
• attended Boy Scout camp with Dad at Fiesta Island in San Diego (earning merit badges for kayaking, motor-boating, oceanography and basketry)
• resumed piano lessons after a yearlong hiatus
• adopted his cousin’s turtle, Squirt
Hopes:
• to watch The Hobbit movie with friends this week (Mom made him read the book first!)
• to survive the spring semester of his Classical Conversations Challenge A class (Mom is a tough tutor!)

Kerrick, age 10
Highlights:
• baptized on Palm Sunday at Grace Community Church, Tempe
• learned to skateboard at a friend’s birthday party, and then bought his own board (but, unfortunately, not his own medical insurance)
• attended Cub Scout summer day camp with Mom in the sweltering desert heat (earning badges for archery, BB-gun shooting, engineering, swimming and meteorology) and Camp Geronimo in the cool mountain pines
• swam with the Tempe Tigersharks (his fourth year on the swim team)
• went to war with his brother and their guests at a summer Nerf birthday battle
• performed as Mr. Post in a homeschool production of Wild West Tales — which included Cindy Ellen, a western version of the Cinderella story (signature line: “Howdy, Miss Cindy!”)
Hopes:
• to achieve Classical Conversations Memory Master distinction (yep, now he’s memorizing a humongous new set of history, science, geography, math, Latin and English grammar facts, which he’ll have to recite after 24 weeks)
• to cross over from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts in the spring

Kennah, age 7
Highlights:
• read her first book (title: Eat!)
• lost her first two teeth (on the bottom, in front)
• spent a week by herself with Grandma and Grandpa (brother-less bliss!)
• joined an American Heritage Girls troop (ahhh! girls galore!)
• watched Soul Surfer and decided that Bethany Hamilton is her hero
• learned to ride her bike without training wheels
• completed numerous art projects (drawings, paintings, collages, etc.) and craft projects, too (sewed pillowcases and dresses, wove friendship bracelets and learned to finger knit)
Hopes:
• to lose at least two more teeth (especially the loose ones on the top, in front)
• to take a trip someday with Mom to the American Girl store to choose a special doll

Keillor, age 5
Highlights:
• spent a few days by himself with Grandma and Grandpa (and got a little homesick)
• participated in a weekly Classical Conversations class (without Mom, but with big sister)
• rode a camel on his own and fed the giraffes with his siblings at the Phoenix Zoo
• learned to ride his bicycle without training wheels (and how to hop off before crashing!)
Hopes:
• to visit Cars Land at Disneyland someday
• to become a Cub Scout in the fall

Shawn, age undisclosed
Highlights:

• enjoyed working at a new job close to home (within walking/biking distance!)
• took time off to attend Boy Scout camp at Fiesta Island with Kellen and Camp Geronimo with Kerrick
• hiked and canoed with Kellen’s Boy Scout troop
• helped design Kerrick’s last Cub Scout Pinewood Derby car, Raingutter Regatta boat and Space Derby rocket (fortunately, he’ll get to do it all again with Keillor next year!)
• stayed busy with several side jobs (handyman extraordinaire!)
Hopes:
• to have a less-hectic home life (including maybe a laundry-free sofa to sit on in case there’s ever a minute to relax) :-)

Sonya, ageless (ha!)
Highlights:
• tutored a Classical Conversations Challenge A class (third time’s a charm, with Kellen as a student!)
• led a small squad of six sweet girls in Kennah’s American Heritage Girls troop
• continued to fit in some freelance writing/editing for The Nature Conservancy, as well as for GNOWFGLINS.com (even got to meet mentor and friend Wardeh Harmon when she visited Arizona in June!)
• enjoyed a much-needed getaway to California’s central coast
• sewed costumes for a homeschool theater group, sewed matching dresses with a friend for our daughters, and sewed numerous badges onto Cub Scout and American Heritage Girls vests, plus a Boy Scout sash
• read a few good books (including The Help, One Thousand Gifts, and Cleaning House: A Mom’s Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement)
Hopes:
• to slow down the pace of life a little bit (if at all possible)
• to continue to learn all that I can and help my children do the same (with plenty of God’s grace)
• to someday spend a year living with my family on Ireland’s Bere Island — and write a book about it (just need to convince Shawn to go for it!) :-)

Above all, our family hopes that your family is looking forward to an amazing and blessing-filled New Year!

December 31, 2012   No Comments

A Half-Dozen …

… things we’re celebrating this season:

1. Our faith in a loving God who meets our every need when times are tough. We are not always grateful for the lessons we’ve had to learn, but we know where our trust belongs: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” —Jeremiah 29:11

2. A family life that not only keeps us busy but also allows us all to be together as much as possible. We’re also thankful for grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins who help us juggle a tight schedule and meet responsibilities both at home and on the job.

3. Friends! We’ve kept our current ones (whew!) and made several new ones (yay!) — and reconnected with a few old ones, too (thank you, Facebook). :-) All have inspired us in some way. We’re making it our goal to return the favor.

4. There’s no shortage of work to be done around here — and that’s a good thing! Shawn just took a new job as a project manager for a Tempe company, and he continues to do small handyman jobs on his own. Sonya is still a homeschooling mom and free-lance writer/editor, as well as a tutor and writing teacher.

5. And then there’s school. Kellen (11), Kerrick (9), Kennah (6) and Keillor (4) still do most of their learning at home, but the three oldest also attend two enrichment programs each week for extras like art, history, Latin, music, P.E. and science. It definitely keeps us all hopping — and our brains popping!

6. We actually hope to play more in the near future. Sure, Shawn and the boys have hiked and camped with the Scouts, and Sonya and Kennah have tried to squeeze some girl time in here and there. But we’ve resolved to soon do more of those things that refresh our spirits and keep us going. We hope that’s your plan, too!

Merry Christmas from the Hemmings Half-Dozen!

December 23, 2011   2 Comments

The World on a String

The seventh-grade homeschooled students I tutor once a week for a program called Classical Conversations are learning to draw the entire world from memory this year — and label at least 200 countries, capitals and features. It’s no small feat! They’re halfway there, so I thought I’d give them this little memento to help keep up their momentum. I photocopied a world map onto 8 1/2-by-11-inch paper and cut it into half-inch horizontal strips, making sure I preserved one strip in particular with the words “The World” printed on it. I played with that strip to form a circle (secured by tape) that would neatly fit the inside diameter of the clear glass ornament. Then I curled each of the remaining strips around a pencil, smoothing the curl out a bit before pushing each strip individually into the ornament and inside the band formed by the first strip. Each time I pushed in a new strip, I shook the ornament and all of the strips naturally curled around each other to form a jumbled globe shape that I thought looked really fun. My handy husband shortened up and sharpened some Christmas pencils and drilled a hole through each one so that I could tie it on — along with a little jingle bell — with embroidery thread. I hope my students enjoy the ornaments. I liked them so much that I made one for our tree, too. :-)

December 6, 2011   No Comments

The Season’s Greetings

Merry Christmas! For many, many reasons, we did not send cards out to friends and family this year. But we absolutely LOVED all of the cards we received anyway—so much that we covered the inside of our front door with them! (Look closely, and you might see yours somewhere in our collection!) Well, almost covered anyway. (See the space at the bottom? There’s a little room left if yours didn’t make it into the mail yet.) :-)

I didn’t have a lot of time for blogging this holiday season, but as a throwback to my Christmas carol countdown of last year, I thought I’d share one of my new favorites this year—God Bless Us Everyone, sung by Andrea Bocelli from his My Christmas CD:

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I hope you find it meaningful, too!

December 24, 2010   No Comments

Christmas Dinner—and Dessert

When Shawn and I got married in 1995, my sweet friend Mary Velgos gave me a recipe titled Simon and Garfunkel Chicken—a name inspired by the singing duo’s 1966 album Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. (Even if you’ve never heard the lyrics to the song Scarborough Fair, I’ll bet you can guess at least four of the ingredients in this recipe!) At the time, we had no idea that it would become the go-to special-occasion dish for our family. But that’s exactly what it is. So it wasn’t a surprise when I asked Shawn what we should have for Christmas dinner and he requested Simon and Garfunkel Chicken.

While I have been able to alter the recipe to make it gluten-free, dairy-free and egg-free for Kellen, I haven’t yet made it using pastured chicken. That’s because I’d have to separate and debone the breasts from whole chickens myself, and I haven’t yet tackled that task—although I hope to someday. The other main ingredients—homemade mozzarella cheese, pastured eggs, bread crumbs from a sprouted-grain loaf or batch of tortillas—have been easy to fit within real-food parameters. I typically serve Simon and Garfunkel Chicken alongside corn (organic frozen kernels, in this case) and garlic mashed potatoes.

ChristmasdinnerChristmascookies

Our Christmas dessert was a real treat (though decidedly not a real-food one!) that the kids and I put together on Christmas Eve. Using a gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free recipe for sugar cookies and a set of star-shaped cookie cutters in five sizes, we baked about 50 stars and then stacked them into five Christmas-tree towers using green-tinted royal icing as our “glue” and multicolored sprinkles as “lights.” To make each tree, we used two stars in each of the five sizes. We iced each cookie individually and added it to the stack, varying the position of the points and sprinkling the edges with every layer. They were fun to make—and even more fun to eat! :-)

This post is part of the Tuesday Twister blog carnival hosted by www.gnowfglins.com. To link to today’s Tuesday Twister on that site, click here.

December 29, 2009   4 Comments